Bruce Springsteen writes first children's book about bank-robber Outlaw Pete

The tale was inspired by memories of 1950s children’s book Brave Cowboy Bill

Move over Madonna, the Boss is entering the celebrity children’s book market. Bruce Springsteen is to publish an illustrated cowboy story for youngsters about a bank-robber “trying to outrun his sins”.

Outlaw Pete, based on an eight-minute ballad from Springsteen’s 2009 Working on a Dream album, will be published by Simon & Schuster in November.

Frank Caruso, a cartoonist and writer, who had the idea of turning the song into a book, and persuaded Springsteen to write the text, provides the illustrations.

Springsteen, 64, joins Madonna, Sting and Sir Paul McCartney in the pantheon of music stars-turned-children’s authors.

The New Jersey rocker’s tale was inspired by memories of Brave Cowboy Bill, a 1950s children’s book which his mother read to him as a child.

But Springsteen, whose songs have provoked comparisons to John Steinbeck’s dustbowl narratives, promises a grittier children’s offering than Madonna’s best-selling tome, The English Roses.

 

His subject is a “killer and a thief” in the song, and Springsteen said: “Outlaw Pete is essentially the story of a man trying to outlive and outrun his sins.”

Caruso said: “Like Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, Dorothy Gale and for me, even Popeye, Outlaw Pete cuts deep into the folklore of our country and weaves its way into the fabric of great American literary characters.”

The story will appeal to adults too, said Jonathan Karp, Simon & Schuster’s president. “It’s a book for anybody who loves a good Western. It’s for readers of all ages,” he said.

“It has an adult sensibility, and so does the book. Outlaw Pete is a quintessentially Springsteen character, brought to life here, and like the song, it’s a meditation on fate.

“Pete is robbing banks at a very young age, and he does a lot of things he regrets, but as the lyric says, you can't undo the things you've done.”

Springsteen is plotting further literary forays. He has been quietly working on an autobiography but his busy touring schedule has prevented him from finalising the text. He is currently compiling “writings, miscellaneous writings” for an untitled project.

“The Boss” faces competition from another venerable rocker, Keith Richards, in the children’s book lists. The Rolling Stone next month publishes a picture book, Gus & Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar. It tells the story of Richards; grandfather, Theodore Augustus Dupree, who played in a jazz big band and introduced the young Keith to music.

Richards’ daughter Theodora Dupree Richards, who is named after Gus, has illustrated the book with pen and ink collages inspired by photographs of Richards’ childhood.

Sir Paul McCartney provided a more didactic approach with his children’s book, High in the Clouds, which imagined a world in which animals fight against a human threat to their habitat, in order to live in freedom and without fear.

Read more: Bruce Springsteen, High Hopes, album review
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